Exclusion lies at the root of any conflict. Small and big. This applies to the United States as well. The death of innocent American civilians through police violence is deeply disturbing. Just like the ease with which politicians use the protests to prove themselves right. Polarize instead of connect.

I see the mechanisms of exclusion doing their cold and destructive work in all countries where Mensen met een Missie operates. But racism, exclusion and violence can no longer be ignored by the people who can do something about it. They have the power, the networks, the resources. Without them, nothing changes. In every context, the power and therefore the solution lies elsewhere. In the United States it lies with white people. In Sudan with the military. In Bolivia with the men. In India with nationalist Hindus.

The silent majority has to speak out
Calling for change is not in the interest of those who enjoy the advantages of inequality. Therefore, some people are silent. Others are silent because they do not feel safe enough to speak out on the current riots and demonstrations. Still others are silent out of disinterest. Together they form the majority. Still, I’m convinced that being silent doesn’t work. Those in power should be made aware. And that is only possible if the silent majority speaks out.

The trick is to get those people who are silent to talk. Apparently, this requires a crisis like this. That is in itself a sad fact. The people we support give us a fundamental insight, time and again: it is crucial that people fighting exclusion and inequality do not succumb to the ever-present temptation of weapons and violence. Nonviolent protest however, is most likely what will get people to really change.

Countering power starts small
Thousands of people lying face-down on their bellies on a bridge in Portland. The wall of white protesters surrounding black protesters. Images that cannot be erased from the mind. Not with those who are silent nor with those in power. And that is the desired result.

Countering power starts small. Just as every beginning of positive change starts small. It is not difficult: be curious. Know what the other’s motives are. Get to know eachother. Do what the polarizing other does not want you to do: connect.

Know what the other’s motives are. Get to know eachother. – Rick van der Woud


Rick has been the director of Mensen met een Missie since February 2017. Under his supervision, the Mensen met een Missie team works with its extensive network of local people and organizations to fight exclusion, oppression and discrimination. In 13 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Related stories

We believe that real change comes from below.
That is why we support small-scale local initiatives.


Behavioural Insights in Peacebuilding

Working on peace and reconciliation is to focus on behavioural change. Human behaviour is very interesting, but also very complex,… Read more

Corona crisis

Report: The role of social leaders in Colombia during the COVID-19 pandemic

Mensen met een Missie publishes the report ‘Red Flag’, which illustrates the challenges that Afro-Colombian and indigenous (female) social leaders… Read more


‘You don’t shoot a friend’

In Tapac (northeast Uganda) in the past decade hundreds of people were killed as a result of intertribal conflicts. Peace and security are sorely needed in this rough and vulnerable region.